Although there will be no local activities for Fire prevention week this year, local officials are still hoping to get the message across that simple safety precautions can save lives.
The theme this year is Serve Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen and fire departments across the country will be educating people on how to prevent cooking fires.
“Kitchen fires are the number one cause of structure fires,” said Timo Juurakko, assistant chief community and support services with Maple Ridge Fire and Rescue.
One major mistake that people make is unattended cooking, noted Juurakko.
If you are frying, grilling or broiling food, turn off the burners when you leave the kitchen and only turn them back on again when you return, advised the assistant chief.
“We know cooking fires can be prevented,” said Lorraine Carli, vice-president of outreach and advocacy at the National Fire Prevention Association, (NFPA).
“Staying in the kitchen while cooking, using a timer, and avoiding distractions such as electronics or TV are steps everyone can take to keep families safe in their homes,” she said.
Also, if you are simmering, baking, roasting, or boiling food, check it regularly. Remain in the home while food is cooking, and use a timer to remind you that you’re cooking. Have a child-free zone around the stove. And always be alert when cooking, and keep an oven mitt and pan lid nearby.
“If a small grease fire starts, slide the lid over the pan to smother the flame. Turn off the burner, and leave the pan covered until it is completely cool,” were some of the other tips being promoted by the NFPA.
Calls to fire departments have increased during the pandemic, largely due to fires resulting from unattended cooking, explained the B.C. Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn fund.
In 2019, 851 fires in the province were started from cooking and accounted for close to one third of all structure fires, as reported to the Office of the Fire Commissioner, and as a result of these fires, 62 people were injured and $39 million worth of damage was caused, the organization stated. The Burn Fund, established in 1978 by the B.C. Professional Fire Fighters’ Association, supports burn survivors and works to increase the public’s knowledge about fire and burn prevention.
The federal minister of public safety and emergency preparedness, Bill Blair, encouraged everyone in Canada to be familiar with kitchen fire safety.
“Fires can have a devastating impact on our families and our communities, and it’s important to remember that they are very dangerous and can spread quickly,” said the minister in a statement to mark the week.
“One-third of residential fires are initiated by cooking equipment. We must be prepared by staying alert while cooking, by being aware of what can cause fires in the kitchen, and by never leaving our cooking unattended,” he added, advising that families should prepare an escape plan with two or more safe ways to exit every room in their home and ensure that their home is properly equipped to detect fires.
In past years Fire Prevention Week was marked locally with an open house and a program with Panago pizza where members of the fire department would accompany two deliveries each evening and if the customer could demonstrate a working smoke alarm and a family escape plan, their order would be free.
This year, because of COVID-19, those activities have been cancelled and replaced with a provincial poster and video contest.
The poster contest has been divided into three categories – kindergarten to Grade 3; Grades 4-6; and Grades 7-12. Artwork may be on any Fire Prevention Week subject including: burn and scald prevention; fire prevention; fire escape planning; smoke alarms; or carbon monoxide safety. Entries can be emailed to FirePreventionWeek@burnfund.org or mailed to B.C. Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund at 3891 Main Street, Vancouver, V5V 3P1.
The video contest is in two categories – kindergarten to Grade 6 and Grades 7 to 12. Videos must be three minutes maximum and contain a strong Fire Prevention Week message on a topic of their choosing. Submissions must be posted to YouTube and the link emailed to FirePreventionWeek@burnfund.org.
The deadline for both contests is Oct. 23.
For full contest rules go to gov.bc.ca/FirePreventionWeek.